Updating with the Revised Grail

2 02 2011

Sorry for the week and a half of blog silence. Busy last week—those of you who follow my Twitter feed know that this is the second year I’ve volunteered for the Liturgical Composers Forum. My primary job as a volunteer is shuttling the composers from and to the airport, and I help with setting up and tearing down for the various events during the forum. In between, I have the opportunity to rub shoulders with some pretty big-name composers, and it’s a real honor just to hear them discuss music and liturgy on such an elevated level.

This week: Snowpocalypse 2011, Midwest Edition. Both SDS and DuBourg were closed, so I didn’t have to show up for work; we told our nanny to stay home and off the roads, so I watched our daughter for the day.

I’ve spent the past few weeks off and on updating my setting of Psalm 34 to fit the Revised Grail translation. When I posted the version from my wedding on YouTube (currently at 40k+ hits), I started receiving several requests for the sheet music. After that version was rejected for submission by a publisher—and knowing that the new Grail was on the way—I resolved to rework it. I’ve set six verses so far. I’m mostly happy with the results, but I think it can use a little tweaking here and there.

Something that’s stuck out for me while working with this translation is the complete lack of inclusive language. I’ve always been kind of neutral when it comes to the whole inclusive language debate. I think it’s important when we’re talking about the horizontal—the assembled faithful—because it’s really awkward calling a group of women religious “brethren” or singing about how a predominantly black congregation should be “washed whiter than snow.” Vertical is fuzzier for me. While I understand that God transcends gender, I think some inclusive solutions in prayer and song turn out somewhat goofy, as though we forgot how to use a pronoun.

When I originally composed the setting, I had the voices of two dear friends in my mind: those of soprano Allison Wamser and alto Kristen Huffman, who are featured in the wedding YouTube video. In the NAB third verse from the video, you hear them sing, “When the poor one called out, he heard / and from all his distress, he saved him.” I think that’s okay, since it’s in the third person. But the Revised Grail gives us this: “This lowly one called, / The Lord heard, / and rescued him from his distress.” It’s a little weird, directly identifying the person proclaiming the psalm as gendered male, especially when I hear the cantor’s voice as female.

I sent what I have so far to the two cantors to get their thoughts, and I have yet to hear back from them. It’ll be interesting to hear their responses.

And if anyone out there is interested in seeing the work-in-progress, leave a comment below. Just enter a valid email address into the email field (don’t put it in the actual comment, unless you really want a ton of spam), and I’ll shoot it off to you.


Massive snow, Mass settings

20 01 2011
The roof edge of the stone sheep shelter

The roof edge of the stone sheep shelter, by joysaphine (flickr)

Snow day! This morning, my wife and I took our daughter out for her first time to play in the snow. After about half an hour of bundling up, we went right into the front yard, which was covered in a blanket of about three to four inches. She hated it. We went back in after less then ten minutes. Oh well.


Rather than leave you wondering about which Mass settings I had picked out for the rest of the liturgical year (because I know you were perched behind your keyboards, giddy with anticipation), I thought I’d share what I had lined up before The Big Switch. In most instances for next year, I intend to keep the same settings of the Kyrie, Gospel Acclamation, and Lamb of God, since those texts for the congregation are not changing. FYI, in cases where the composer has revised a setting for the new translation, I’ve actually linked to the original setting for the 1973 translation.

  • For Advent and Christmas, I mentioned earlier we’d done the Eucharistic Acclamations from John Foley’s Mass of the Pilgrim Church. We did my own settings of the Kyrie and Lamb of God, and for Christmastide, we sang the Mass of Light Gloria by David Haas. For the first time, we used the Advent Gospel Acclamation by Michael R. Prendergast and Joseph B. Sullivan, which not only adapts the melody from Veni, Veni Emmanuel, but also has all the verses prescribed by the Lectionary for every day in the season. Likewise, it was also our first time to use Barbara Bridge’s Christmas Season Gospel Acclamation, which is based on the melody from the Sussex Carol and also has all the Lectionary verses for the season.
  • As I said in the last post, SDS is doing the Eucharistic Acclamations from the St. Louis Jesuits Mass for this run of Ordinary Time up until Lent. Our Gloria is currently David Haas’s Do This In Memory of Me. The Gospel Acclamation we’re using is also by Haas, from his Mass for the Life of the World. Finally, the Lamb of God is Matt Maher’s setting from the Mass of St. Timothy.
  • For Lent, we’ll be doing the Eucharistic Acclamations from Marty Haugen’s Mass of Remembrance. The Kyrie will be the chant Kyrie XVI in Greek (with the simplified ending, rather than the long melisma). For the first time since I’ve been music director, we’ll do the English adaptation of the Agnus Dei XVIII. I’m still on the fence about which Gospel Acclamation to use.
  • In Easter, it’ll be one big David Haas extravaganza. We’ll go back to using the Gloria from Mass of Light. The Eucharistic Acclamations and Lamb of God will be from the Mass for the Life of the World. The Gospel Acclamation will be one of his relatively new settings, called Alleluia: Our God Is Speaking. The melody for the Alleluia refrain is actually reused in his new Mass for a New World setting for the upcoming translation, but I preferred these metrical verses to the chanted ones.
  • Finally, for the rest of Ordinary Time, we’ll use Marty Haugen’s venerable Mass of Creation for the Gloria, Eucharistic Acclamations, and Lamb of God. I’ll switch the Gloria to Mass of Light in the fall, just to give what IMO is the best setting of the 1973 Gloria one final farewell lap. The Gospel Acclamation will be from Steve Angrisano’s Mass of a Joyful Heart.

As I’ve done with my previous entries on seasonal liturgical planning, I’ll include some musings and personal reflections in more detail when the time comes.

Liturgical planning: Ordinary Time before Lent

18 01 2011

I’m a little behind where I’d like to be in my planning for Ordinary Time (ironically, Lent seems to be a little further along), but I’m still three weeks ahead at this point. Here’s the iWork Numbers document, which I’ll update as I go, and hopefully have finished before the end of the week.

Notes for this season:

Resting among the Green

"Resting among the Green," by Lawrence OP (flickr)

  • This run of Ordinary Time (2nd-9th Sundays) will be the last time we use the St. Louis Jesuits Mass. While I feel it’s a little hokey at times, it’s one I grew up on, and I know that many in my parish have a sentimental attachment to it.
  • When I first arrived at SDS almost ten years ago, I was shocked—shocked!—to discover that the congregation was unfamiliar with Martin Willett’s communion hymn, “Behold the Lamb.” After some false starts trying to introduce this song, I’m using this season to learn it in earnest and reinforce it. We started this past Sunday, where it fits with the Gospel (Jn 1:29-34).
  • Matt Maher’s setting of the Lamb of God from Mass of St. Timothy is a staple at Life Teen Masses. I use it year-round for our primary grade/preschool liturgies because the call-response echo format helps out the preschool kids. Maher’s original text has “you take away the sins of all the world”; we use the rendering from Spirit & Song Vol. 2, which has the prescribed official translation, “you take away the sins of the world.” Most of the LT Masses I play around town still sing the first version, but with the tightening of composers’ guidelines for the new translation (no paraphrasing), it’ll be interesting to see if they switch to the second version at all.
  • The entrance song for this coming Sunday, Dan Schutte’s “Sing a New Song,” originally had the Y-word in the first verse: “Yahweh’s people dance for joy.” The new text is: “Shout with gladness! Dance for joy!” (Apropos of nothing, at the Mizzou Newman Center, we used to sing a parody: “Sing the same old song to the Lord / It’s the same song that we sang last week.”)
  • For Catholic Schools Week, we’ll be singing “Song of St. Dominic Savio,” a parish anthem I composed for our 50th anniversary in 2006.

And the angels sing softly

12 01 2011

The final deadline for submitting to Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir performance of “Sleep” was Monday night. The goal was to set a world record with 900 videos; by December 31, the original deadline, 1098 individual videos were submitted. Before the ten-day extended deadline, that number almost doubled to 2017!

I submitted my Bass I recording way back in October, and was one of the first 60 to upload in the Virtual Choir. My performance is okay—my “moon” and “dune” in the first minute are a tiny bit flat, but otherwise pitch was pretty solid. I was disappointed with the microphone levels, only to discover later that I was recording through the headphone mic. Still, with 2000 other voices (238 of them on the Bass I part), the tiny pitch and recording errors should get covered up in the final mix.

I’ve told the story several times about how I first got involved with the Virtual Choir, but never in a truly public space like a blog. So, please, bear with me if you’ve heard this one before—I never tire of telling it, and I think with good reason.

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Together they shall rest with a child

9 01 2011

Yeah, it didn’t take me long to fall off the blogging wagon. I’m still a little too shaken up by the day’s events to get into that, though:

At least six people died and at least a dozen were injured in the Saturday morning shooting at a Tucson, Ariz., grocery store parking lot, in which the gunman specifically targeted Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Pima County, Ariz. Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said. Giffords was shot in the head, and the shooting continued until citizens tackled the suspected gunman, he said.

The dead included John Roll, chief judge of the U.S. District Court of Arizona. Also killed was Gabe Zimmerman, 30, the congresswoman’s director of community outreach, and a 9-year-old girl. Two other Giffords staffers were injured. Read the rest of this entry »

Go go Grail Psalter

4 01 2011

King David imageI received my Revised Grail Psalms yesterday. GIA also posted the psalms in their entirety for free. I haven’t had a chance to sit down and compare the 2008 version and this final version, which reportedly came back from Rome with 300 changes.

I did glance at the Responsorial Psalm for this coming Sunday—Psalm 29 for the Baptism of the Lord. It doesn’t look like there are any changes between the two versions except for the capitalization of one word (2008 had “Bow down before the Lord” while the final text has “bow” in lowercase).

I am glad to finally have this text in my hands so I can get to work on updating old psalm settings and composing new ones. As a general rule, the Grail translation is more poetic than the clunky NAB. I don’t know yet if it’s better than the original 1963 or the revisions that came before this one, but I’m looking forward to playing around with it.

Resolutions and reflections: Advent Gathering Rite

3 01 2011

Okay, new year. After almost a month of radio silence, let’s try this again. Resolution: Blog every weekday, and hope the momentum holds.

The easiest way for me to fulfill that is to reflect back on the stuff I wanted to blog about while it was happening in the past liturgical seasons, but [insert Advent/Christmas excuse here]. So, first up, a look back at how Advent went at SDS.

336/365 - Advent

"Advent," by Micah Taylor (flickr)

As I mentioned before, for all the Sundays of Advent, I used a setting of the proper entrance antiphon as suggested by the Graduale Simplex. For Advent 2009, I used the excellent and very accessible Psallité settings for all four Sundays. This year, I wanted to try something different: Something that would really introduce the “flavor” of Advent and announce the beginning of a new liturgical year.

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